Joanne Harris has written fourteen novels, numerous short stories, and TV scripts. Her books also include two cookbooks. In My French Kitchen, Harris along with Fran Warde, an accomplished food writer, serves up “her treasured collection of family recipes that has been passed down from generation to generation.” The recipe for Vianne’s spiced hot chocolate is in My French Kitchen in the chapter devoted to French chocolates of all kinds.
Sadly, My French Kitchen was not available at the library, but I found an online recipe that sounds similar to Vianne’s spiced hot chocolate. From this link: http://www.madewithpink.com/2015/11/cinnamon-spiced-french-hot-chocolate/
Cinnamon Spiced French Hot Chocolate
- 125ml Whole Milk
- 150ml Single Cream
- 75ml Double Cream
- 140g Dark Chocolate (80%), chopped
- 2 Tbsp Dark Brown Sugar
- 1/4 tsp Vanilla Extract
- 1/8 tsp Cinnamon
- Sprinkle of Sea Salt
- Sweetened Whipped Cream to serve
- In a medium saucepan, heat the milk, single cream, and double cream until hot, but not boiling. Remove from the heat.
- Add chopped dark chocolate to the hot cream, and allow to sit for 3-5 mins so it begins to melt.
- Slowly start string from the inside out, so the chocolate is incorporated as much as possible. Return to a low heat, and continue string until all of the chocolate is melted and incorporated into the cream.
- Add in vanilla, cinnamon and sea salt and stir until combined,
- Pour into mugs, and top with fresh whipped cream.
Harris writes about matters of identity, mother/child relationships, emotional attachments evoked by food, the outsider, and superstition. With father-figures frequently missing from her work, Harris explores issues of attachment and longing. Peaches for Father Francis examines several of Harris’s favorite themes: the outsider, food and its connections, sexism, crimes against women, and missing and found fathers.
While Peaches for Father Francis completes the trilogy also comprised of Chocolat and The Girl With No Shadow, each book stands alone well. Of course, reading all three gives a more complete picture of the recurring characters. Like most of her other novels, Peaches for Father Francis provides readers with perspectives from Father Francis and Vianne. The chapters alternate; occasionally, however, one character will speak in adjoining chapters. Since both Father Francis and Vianne speak in first person, the chapters could be confusing. Harris has resolved that problem by identifying the speaker with a symbol at the beginning of each chapter: a crescent moon for Vianne and a cross for Father Francis. Since I often skip those clues, thanks to my friend Sue Attalla for pointing out the error of my ways! Below, find the alternate title.
The dual-narrator allows Harris to develop the characters more fully than if the story played out with only one first-person narrator. This technique also gives more depth to even the minor characters since readers see them from two perspectives.
Peaches for Father Francis takes place in Lansquenet-sous-Tannes, a fictional village. Vianne and her daughter Anouk have been gone for eight years when they return, supposedly for a visit. Vianne receives a letter from Luc Clairmont, now a college student. Luc encloses a letter his grandmother Armande had written before her death and entrusted to Luc; her instructions indicated he should not open his letter until his twenty-first birthday. Inside, he found the letter addressed to Vianne. That letter “from beyond the grave” draws Vianne, Anouk, and her younger daughter Rosette back to Lansquenet-sous-Tannes. Roux, her companion and Rosette’s father, asks Vianne to remain in Paris with him and not to make the sentimental journey back. However, Vianne feels drawn to return and fulfill Armande’s request to return because “Lansquenet will need you again. But I can’t count on our stubborn cure’ to tell you when that happens. So do me a final courtesy. Take a trip back to Lansquenet. Bring the children. Roux, if he’s there. Put flowers on an old lady’s grave…. There used to be a peach tree growing up the side of my house. If you come in the summertime, the fruit should be ripe and ready to pick…. And remember, everything returns. The river brings everything back in the end.”
The river in Lansquenet plays an important part in the story, almost like another character. The heat of the summer adds another dimension because the prolonged heat with lack of rain makes people short-tempered and combined with events in the village, the heat, river, and tempers create volatile circumstances, especially with so many secrets on all sides.
Sadly, Vianne discovers that her former chocolate shop has been partially destroyed in a fire. Ines Bencharki, “the Woman in Black,” a Muslim woman new to the village since Vianne was there, has been teaching girls in a school held in the old chocolate shop. Ines and her daughter Du’a also lived in the building. They escaped the fire; most of the Muslim community blames Father Francis for setting the fire. When she learns about the fire, Vianne does not believe Father Francis to be responsible despite the old conflicts between them from the past and that still haunt them today.
Vianne settles in Armande’s cottage with Anouk and Rosette. Anouk immediately finds old friends, and Rosette, who does not speak much except in whistles, makes new friends, especially with Maya, a young Muslim girl. The story is complicated with past issues which Vianne must explore both sides of the community in order to help the village as Armande knew Vianne must.
To avoid spoilers, I would say read Peaches for Father Francis to find out what is dividing the community, what happens to Father Francis, what does Ines’ hide under her veil, and how does Vianne deal with all these problems. I have omitted a number of characters and situations from the story to entice readers to read the book!
WordPress has been extremely temperamental today, a problem I have not encountered previously and hope I don’t again!